Polyamory and feminism

Throughout the last couple centuries (in United States culture), there has been a strong double standard when it comes to men, women, and monogamy. Monogamy has applied only incidentally to men. It was fairly common for men to take mistresses in the first half of the 1900’s, though the practice was always looked down upon. The prostitution and stripping industries have always served men almost exclusively, and have significantly catered to men in relationships or marriages. Traditional religious forms of polygyny (usually mislabeled “polygamy”) have made this double standard explicit in marriage. Whether we are talking about fundamentalist Mormons or relatively recent West African immigrants, men in these arrangements can have multiple wives, but there is no talk of women having multiple husbands. Overall, while the culture at large has paid lip service to male monogamy, it has been more of an option than a requirement.

The situation for women is quite different. Monogamy itself can be traced in a direct line back to the early 1800’s, when marriages were arranged and women were essentially owned. Between that time and the 1960’s, there was very little in the way of recognized nonmonogamous outlets for women, short of adultery. Adultery was in many cases an offense punishable by death, in the form of “justifiable homicide”. Here’s an example of this from the Texas penal code of 1911 – note that only the husband was given permission to slay his wife’s paramour, not the other way around. While many individual women bucked the trend, including well-known artists and movie stars, they were the exceptions to the rule.

The monogamous double standard is a reflection of the general double standard involving sexuality. Notions like sexual purity, virginity, and reserve seem to attach most strongly to women, and monogamy works the same way. Up until relatively recently, monogamy was primarily for women. Even today, the double standard is alive and well, and monogamy is directed towards women much more than towards men.

It should be noted that this situation is changing. Monogamy is becoming more egalitarian as women have gained economic power, simultaneously giving women more freedom and restricting men more. We can see this in rates of extra-relationship affairs, which seem to occur among men at about one and a third times the rate they occur among women. We can see how monogamy has become more of a concern for men by reviewing the difference between the treatment of John F. Kennedy’s infidelities and Bill Clinton’s infidelity: the former was largely ignored, and the latter was grounds for impeachment.

It is in this environment of women’s economic ascension (which is nowhere near complete, but is a whole different world from forty years ago), that mixed-gender nonmonogamous communities have been thriving, including sex radicals, swinger groups, and polyamory.

The ideology of polyamory seems to be explicitly egalitarian, because it generally expects that both partners in a polyamorous relationship will have access to other lovers. Perhaps more importantly, women have been central in the creation of polyamorous ideology. Not only was the term coined by one or more women, but the first five books written about polyamory were all authored by women. The Ethical Slut, the one among these that is generally considered to be the bible of polyamory, was written by two women. Also, Loving More, the prime polyamory magazine, has been historically run by women. With this level of authorship by women, we can expect that polyamory is an ideology geared towards the desires of women.

The status of women in polyamory is not just a matter of ideology, however. While there are no statistics on this (to my knowledge), from my experience within polyamorous communities, it seems that women are just as likely to succeed in polyamory as men, however you may measure success (number of relationships, depth of relationships across partners, length of relationships, ability to manage multiple relationship situations). Poly women can and do participate fully in this form of nonmonogamy, whether that means going to sex parties, simultaneously dating multiple genders, having more than one husband, or what have you. Often they outstrip the men they are dating in this regard, and are supported by the community in doing so.

People inside poly communities are constantly asking what is new about polyamory as compared to earlier nonmonogamous movements, and as it turns out we are not doing very much that is new. But this ability of poly women to fully entertain nonmonogamy is in fact new. Which brings me to my main point:

Polyamory’s most radical contribution is that it gives women full access to nonmonogamy.

Many of my readers are going to have a problem with the word “most” in this statement, but bear with me. Polyamory’s central point is that it upends the status of monogamy as the primary relationship paradigm. As monogamy has historically obeyed a heavily gendered double standard, I expect that the primary effect of polyamory (in terms of power distribution) is that it finally drops the monogamous double standard.

I am not claiming here that polyamory is somehow free of sexism or this double standard. Plenty of men enter polyamory specifically entertaining a heavy double standard, and often try to set up controlled situations that are more to their benefit than the women they are dating. What is interesting is the fact that they mostly fail. The community gives them little support in these endeavors, and in fact often ridicules them. The constant jokes around Hot Bi Babes can be seen as one of these attacks, as the MFF closed triad is a fantasy staple among these men. In general, men who want certain things for themselves but are not willing to allow their partner(s) similar things, are advised to change their ways or leave the community. And usually they either change or leave. I have seen this happen again and again, both among my personal friends and in online forums.

The fact that women’s nonmonogamy is central to polyamory has a number of interesting effects:

  1. It puts polyamory in direct opposition to historical forms of mixed-gender nonmonogamy. Compared to polyamory, traditional religious polygyny is highly sexist. In modern swinger movements, women seem to have more personal choice and control than men. However, other common rules associated with swing parties (men must come with a woman, no sexual contact among men) make it clear that swing club setting is more geared towards the desires of men than women. Sex radical parties sometimes have these issues as well, even though (like swing parties) they are well-attended by women who definitely enjoy themselves. The primary criticism leveled against the free love movement of the 60’s is that it seemed to function mainly to convince women to follow sexual paths laid out by men.(Astute readers will have noticed that I have not mentioned open relationships. Open relationships are relatively egalitarian compared to these other movements, in my experience. It may be that open relationships started this move towards egalitarian nonmonogamy, and polyamory is just strengthening and continuing it in a new form.)
  2. Polyamory as a movement seems to spread faster among women than men in some communities. (Note that this does not mean there are more poly women than men total.) One place we can see this is among gay men and lesbians. Lesbian polyamory, while moving more slowly than polyamory among bi women, seems to be doing much better than polyamory among gay men, with more adherents and two books written. I expect that this is because gay men have a number of other nonmonogamous forms available, including open relationships, club culture, and leather culture.In general, polyamory has been very popular among bi women, kinky women, and pagan women. In particular, bi women seem to form the backbone of polyamory in my experience, much more so than bi men. The number of women joining polyamorous communities means that there is not that sense of “not enough women” that one gets in other mixed-gender nonmonogamous settings, particularly play parties.
  3. Polyamory’s biggest media successes seem to happen only when it is clear that women are equal partners in polyamory, usually because a woman with multiple male partners is profiled (perhaps among others). Two examples of this are: the polyamory episode of the Montel Williams show, and a recent article in a Florida paper. When journalists get ahold of poly situations which include the double standard, it is easy for them to portray polyamory in a bad light, as happened in this British TV show.This suggests an important media strategy for us: we should ensure that media exposure of polyamory foregrounds women who have multiple partners.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, the current surprisingly high credibility of polyamory depends on the status of women within polyamory. I have seen this repeatedly in discussions among people who are new to polyamory: their acceptance of polyamory often hinges on how women are treated. If they think that polyamory is yet another excuse for men to exert a double standard, they are turned off. (And many of them do think this despite the actual situation within polyamory, because nonmonogamy historically has been dictated by the desires of men.) If it can be made clear to them that women are significantly involved, they are impressed.

This brings me to my second crucial point. Despite everything I have said so far, there is no guarantee that polyamory will operate in a manner which empowers women. Polyamory is not necessarily feminist.

Currently it seems that the polyamory community is acting in the best interests of nonmonogamous women, but that is because of a number of conditions that are in the end not tightly tied to polyamory itself. Specifically, polyamory has been authored by women and the women who are or become polyamorous seem to have a feminist bent, perhaps because the communities that feed polyamory (queer, kinky, pagan, new age) seem to have the same bent. However, there is no guarantee that these factors will continue. Polyamorous ideology, while nominally egalitarian, is not specifically attached to the liberation of women. It can therefore be hijacked for distinctly anti-feminist ends.

This is a legitimate concern. I have already described how some men try to turn polyamory to their personal gain. There have also been a number of devout Christian (Protestant) couples/families who have come to the polyamorous community in search of a religiously based arrangement of one man and multiple sister-wives. Similarly, various Christian and Mormon websites and organizations have been borrowing the language and tactics of the polyamory, queer, and feminist movements.

While I firmly believe that people should be able to build their own family structures without interference by the government, I think we should all remember (and point out at every possible opportunity) that traditional religious polygyny is sexist. Let me say that one more time for emphasis. Traditional religious polygyny (aka “polygamy”) is sexist. It is blatantly, irredeemably sexist, because sexism is a basic rule of the relationship structure itself: men can have multiple wives but women cannot have multiple husbands. I will continue to understand it as sexist until the day I meet a Mormon woman who is in a community-sanctioned and religion-based marriage with multiple husbands.

I am opposed to any kind of alliance between polyamory activists and traditional polygyny activists, because there is no getting past this sexism. This may seem strange to you. After all, the polygyny and polyamory movements nominally have a number of goals in common. For example, if a polygyny court case ends up upending the ban on polygamy (which is deeply unlikely), polyamorists will definitely benefit. However, the cost to polyamory is too high. If the primary power upheaval of polyamory is the status of women within nonmonogamy, then allying with traditionally sexist forms of nonmonogamy will only hurt the polyamory movement, both in terms of credibility and actual community-building. Instead, I would rather see polyamory activists in that court case. They may even have a better chance of winning, as polygyny can easily be dismissed as an archaic throwback to a pre-feminist era.

While alliances with polygyny are a fairly obvious threat to the status of women within polyamory, they are not the only such problem. The culture at large will create pressure on polyamory to conform to well-understood (and sexist) forms of nonmonogamy. For example, when people of any gender first hear of polyamory, they will often imagine it as multiple girlfriends before considering the possibility of multiple boyfriends. This cultural pull towards sexism will manifest in a number of ways, such as the double standard I have described here, as well as reporters and writers making bad gender assumptions, and numerous couples on the endless quest for the Hot Bi Babe, and bad gender dynamics at play parties. To date, the polyamory community (especially poly women) have kept these issues largely in check. We all need to keep up a certain vigilance against creeping sexism in our nonmonogamy, and remember that the position of women is central to polyamory itself.

41 Responses to “Polyamory and feminism”

  1. yami Says:

    Do you know if Easton, Liszt, & the Loving More co. identify as feminists? Given that women are often complicit in our own oppression (note what happened to Cosmo after Helen Gurley Brown arrived; also, Phyllis Schlafly) the Founding Mothers’ ideology is probably more important than their gender – and you allude to this later in the essay when talking about the poly demographic, but dammit I went to three seconds of Googling to look up Brown’s name and I’m not going to let that go to waste.

  2. Cherie Says:

    I’m the woman featured in the Florida paper you referenced, and while I totally agree that egalitarian attitudes are central to the differences between polyamory and other relationship models that you’ve referenced – I would not agree that polyamory is central to the position of women.

    In my opinion, the position of the *individual* is central to polyamory. By making polyamory woman-centric, that is just reversing the sexism from being about men to about women, and esssentially alligning polyamory with polyandry.

    To be egalitarian, we do not need to overcompensate for the past.. we just need an approach that is not dependent upon which genitalia you happened to be born with.

    And in the end.. it all comes down to having the freedom to choose what works for you.

    • Vlad Says:

      Perfectly said.

      I think public attitudes toward monogamy made a similar mistake. When women (generally speaking) realized that monogamy was a way for the man to “possess” the woman, instead of doing the logical thing and saying that neither party should “possess” the other, they instead seemed the think that it is “only fair” that they also “possess” the man, and monogamy became what it is today – a form of relationship where both parties are possessive and insecure towards their partner, and where each party accuses the other of not loving them anymore if they happen to have feelings of sexual attraction towards someone else. I think polyamory is much more conducive to individuality and equality because it forces us to admit to ourselves that we have no right to control the sex lives of other individuals, just like we have no real basis to think that it is somehow an affront to us personally when our friend/lover/girlfriend/boyfriend/whoever sleeps with another person. (think of how common it is for people to say “you slept with him, how could you do that to ME?”, as if that person sleeping with someone else is somehow affects THEM)

      • pepomint Says:

        I agree, though I want to add that we should not be surprised that monogamy was (mostly) equalized by restricting men more.

        It’s actually a common pattern in culture, where power imbalances are balanced not by increased freedom but rather by increased restriction. This happens because culture (and really, individuals in culture) are power-hungry, so balancing via increased power/control is more attractive.

        We’re seeing this now with beauty standards. Beauty standards have been slowly equalizing between the genders, not by relaxing for women, but by getting increasingly harsh for men.

        I think part of the production of polyamory in the late 80’s and early 90’s was a reaction to the tightening of monogamy for men. Once things were equalized, some women started thinking, “hey this isn’t what I want!”. But I suspect there had to be a period of relative equality before this could happen.

  3. pepomint Says:

    Yami: I’m not sure whether Easton, Hardy (Liszt), Ryam Nearing, and Robyn Trask would self-identify as feminists. However, I expect they are all highly supportive of women’s right to sexual and romantic self-determination in any case, which means they support the part of feminism relevant to what I’ve written here.

    Of course, now you’ve got me wanting to go out and buy yet another copy of The Ethical Slut. (This will be my third – I keep perma-loaning it out.) In addition to checking for feminism, I want to check if the authors are both bisexual. I know they’re kinky.

    Part of what I was getting at with the women’s authorship is that whether or not these authors were advancing a feminist or empowering agenda, they were ensuring that the polyamorous ideology and community would be friendly to women. As you’ve pointed out, women authors sometimes do exactly the opposite, but in this case given the actual material they wrote I think we can say that they succeeded on this front.

  4. pepomint Says:


    First off, let me congratulate you on the interview and article. Also, I know Chris from San Francisco – it was a real treat to see his name in print.

    I would not agree that polyamory is central to the position of women.

    I did not say that polyamory is central to the position of women in general – it most certainly is not. Other things, like equal pay for equal work and freedom from violence are much more important. What I am saying is that the strong position of women within polyamory is very important to polyamory itself. Without it, this movement would not have happened.

    When someone starts talking gender-blindness I usually read that as “there’s still sexism – we’re just not talking about it”. However, in this case I agree with you. Polyamory is surprisingly egalitarian and free from gendered constraints. (Side note: this also is part of what makes polyamory queer-friendly.) The main point of my essay is that this egalitarian situation is new, valuable, and arguably revolutionary specifically because this has not happened for women before. We should do our best to keep it this way by keeping an eye on gender relations within polyamorous communities. I am not saying that we need to somehow elevate women above men within polyamory – just making things equal (and keeping them equal) is the goal here.

  5. Cherie Says:

    Ahh.. but in the same light.. polyamory presents a new situation for men too. Just as it’s a new path for women, it’s a new path for men and women both to be equal in partnerships and the choices they have in relationships.

    I agree it’s rather new and a historically unusual path for women, and a great path for independent men and women who choose it.

    I think what irks me is that I’ve seen a couple of references, your essay included, that seem to want to focus on how women have been instrumental in the movement of polyamory, and focusing on the impacts on women… while defocusing on the impacts on men.

    And while I think it is great to see women moving and shaking the world, and I highly respect the women who are visible polyamory movers.. I think it’s important to keep things in perspective. Polyamory, and the movement itself, has not been influenced predominately by women. There are just as many males who have influenced the movement (Oberon Zell, Ken Haslam, Jim Fleckenstein, Ron Mazur, Robert Rimmer, Robert Heinlein, Jon Wise, Fritz Neumann, etc, etc.).

    What’s unique here.. is that both men and women are creating the path, together and separately. Both women and men have the potential to be empowered in this path – women by being able to break away from less than equal relationship standing in past models, and men being able to finally be an equal and not assumed ‘head of household’ and possessive keeper of their woman.

    And to me.. that is so freaking amazing and wonderful. I don’t want to devalue the male contribution to polyamory, or polyamory’s contribution to men.

  6. yami Says:

    Part of what I was getting at with the women’s authorship is that whether or not these authors were advancing a feminist or empowering agenda, they were ensuring that the polyamorous ideology and community would be friendly to women.

    Right – but their gender, while helpful inasmuch as they’re being continually beaned in the head by ways other communities are unfriendly to women, is otherwise incidental to their success. I think this is less of an important distinction here as it is in places that are trying to create a more woman-friendly environment, where the people in charge think that “add more women” will solve all their structural problems – for example, sex parties, or the physical sciences. What ends up happening is either 1) the added women leave, 2) they stick around, but still suffer from the structural problems that prevented their entry in the first place, and everyone resents the artificial incentives needed to convince them to stay, or 3) the women take on the thankless burden of analyzing and repairing the place’s gender problems, which task generally requires some feminist savvy.

  7. pepomint Says:

    I think what irks me is that I’ve seen a couple of references, your essay included, that seem to want to focus on how women have been instrumental in the movement of polyamory, and focusing on the impacts on women… while defocusing on the impacts on men.

    Ah, I think I see. By bringing up the various ways that women have authored polyamory, I do not mean to underestimate the contributions of men, writers or otherwise. I see how you could get that impression from what I have written, however. We could probably have a very long conversation about the relative importance of various contributions by men and women, but in the end it does not matter much. What matters is that women (in addition to men) have significantly contributed to the founding and development of polyamory, which again is a fairly historical event among mixed-gender nonmonogamous movements. (The lesbian communal movements of the 70’s and 80’s apparently also investigated nonmonogamy.)

    Both women and men have the potential to be empowered in this path – women by being able to break away from less than equal relationship standing in past models, and men being able to finally be an equal and not assumed ‘head of household’ and possessive keeper of their woman.

    I entirely agree with you on this – let’s keep it going this way.

  8. Janet Hardy Says:

    Janet Hardy here, aka “Catherine A. Liszt.” Yes, Dossie and I both identify explicitly as feminists. Dossie in particular considers her sluthood to be an integral part of her feminism — the modality through which she defined herself as a feminist. And in reference to pepomint’s question, I identify as bisexual; Dossie identifies as a dyke although she used to ID as bisexual.

    Hope this helps,

  9. pepomint Says:

    Janet: Nice to meet you! Also welcome to the blog and thank you for the information. I listened to you on Minx’s show recently – perhaps I’ll make it to one of your presentations at some point.

    (I am totally mystified as to how people are finding this blog so quickly. I haven’t done much in the way of putting it out there.)

  10. Polyamory is Feminist? Sure, Why Not? - from The Zero Boss by Jay Andrew Allen Says:

    […] and that it largely is in its current cultural incarnation. He makes a passionate, articulate plea for why modern polyamory bears little resemblance to anything done by the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints. I take issue with his swipe at swingers […]

  11. Ambrose Says:

    How come both the polyamory menu item and the polygyny menu item take me to the same article?

    Is this by design?


  12. pepomint Says:

    Ambrose: The menu items on the left are actually tags, and a single article can be tagged with multiple things. This article is tagged with both polyamory and polygyny. For older articles, click the “older posts” link at the bottom.

  13. Jesse from Texas Says:

    Pepoment: Your writing is absolutely amazing; thank you so much for these essays. When you write something as important as this, of course you should not be surprised that people find it quickly! Best wishes.

  14. pepomint Says:

    Hey Jesse, great to hear from you again. =) Assuming you are the Jesse from Texas that I’ve talked with in the past.

  15. Jesse from Texas Says:

    Hi there. Glad you remember me :)

    And hooray for polyamory — which does not merely give women access to a traditional, hierarchical sort of non-monogamy, but poses an altogether radical challenge to the previous masculine modes of hierarchy and (non-consensual) power as they function in relationships. This is feminist in the strongest sense of the word.

    I would argue that if polyamory comes to accept sexist arrangements as morally “ok for some people,” then polyamory will have sacrificed its social meaning and its political viability. As you seem to keep saying, we need to find consensus around at least a few basic principles. Best.

  16. pepomint Says:


    And hooray for polyamory — which does not merely give women access to a traditional, hierarchical sort of non-monogamy, but poses an altogether radical challenge to the previous masculine modes of hierarchy and (non-consensual) power as they function in relationships.

    Right. Something I did not cover here, but you are touching on, is that the structure of polyamory itself is arguably woman-friendly in various ways, presumably because women played a significant role in dreaming it up. For example, it is very hard to abuse or control someone via relationship dynamics if they have other lovers that can function as support structure.

    My motivation in writing this piece is that I feel a certain creeping danger, where we start with tolerance of men with a double standard, and move on to allying with religious polygynists, and end up without a movement after having undercut the movement’s primary motivation.

  17. Jesse Says:

    I would love to see you expand this essay and put it out there as widely as possible… whenever time allows! Keep the good stuff coming.

  18. pepomint Says:

    There was a very good discussion of the status of women in swinging that happened over on Zero Boss, in response to this post. Check it out.

  19. pepomint Says:

    Anita Wagner (who is an amazing polyamory organizer and educator) has posted on this subject in her blog.

  20. nabil Says:

    allo allo. got referred over here from lj, and have been happily reading my way through your archives. we’ve met a time or two, i believe– most recently at the trans march.

    i like the warning signs you suggested for encroaching double-standard, and i like this as well. i’m of an age to watch in a certain amount of horror as movements i passionately invested in are coopted for anti-feminist ends. goth, kink, riot-grrl– i am saddened and disturbed to see subcultures i have loved taken and hollowed out, all the good bits about empowered women removed, and sold back as fashion and another standard to make female folk feel insecure. argh. ‘twould suck, indeed, to see this done with poly as well. it might be inevitable. but it’s worth fighting.

    anyway, thanks for the writing!



  21. pepomint Says:


    ‘twould suck, indeed, to see this done with poly as well. it might be inevitable.

    Here’s someone else worried about this sort of thing, though he’s generally worried about how the mainstream is co-opting polyamory, not just the sexist implications.

    I actually am not too worried about polyamory losing its women-friendly status, strangely. My reasoning is that said status is already constantly under assault by men entering the community looking to establish harems, and somehow it is repelling these guys. (And I’m speaking from experience – I keep meeting men like this.)

    So we may have reached a tipping point where there are enough women with enough power (financial, conceptual, etc) that we will be able to maintain women-friendly nonmonogamous subcultures.

    Or it may just be that polyamory hasn’t attracted enough attention yet. Certainly there are a huge number of people out there with shitty attitudes around gender and nonmonogamy. I’ve been getting to know this couple recently who spend all their free time hanging around strip clubs – ick. If everyone from the strip club scene descended on polyamory, it would be totally destroyed. But would that happen? Would these guys enter a system where they couldn’t get what they want just by paying for it?

    There has been one major shift in poly history already, from polyamory primarily being about group marriage to a focus on poly networks of independent relationships. However, I would characterize that as a woman-friendly shift actually, because it removed oversight and allowed women to date independently even if they were already involved in one or more relationships.

    So yeah, hard to say.

    In other news, your website is cool and I’m working my way through it. May I friend you on LJ? I’m “inki”.

  22. nabil Says:

    friend away! i friended you back.

    i’m glad to hear you think poly is secure in staying women-friendly. what i’m thinking about is more when a cool subculture gets mass-marketed in a sexist way. in that case, there can still be subcultural folks who practice it in an empowering way– it’s still a bummer to see young folks being exploited with language you used to love, though.

    i don’t know, ultimately i tend to friend folks from different scenes and move on, i can’t seem to find a place to stay for all that long. i’m not as involved in poly community stuff as you are, obviously– i just date & love multiple folks.

    on a side note, last night my partner invited me to an okcupid party this weekend that is apparently being thrown by (1 of?) your partner(s?) will you be there? it would be nice to say hi.



  23. pepomint Says:


    what i’m thinking about is more when a cool subculture gets mass-marketed in a sexist way.

    I see your point. Certainly this has happened to the various scenes you’ve described.

    I would like to say that poly is still freakish enough that it isn’t going to be mass-marketed anytime soon, aside from the occasional “look at what the weirdos are doing” human interest piece. But of course, I see swinging and kink marketed in this manner already and they’re plenty freaky, so maybe it isn’t as much of a stretch as I would think.

    So, yeah, it’s a concern. We seem to have a relatively coherent poly media machine going on, even though it lacks a central organization. Maybe we can hold it off for a while.

    on a side note, last night my partner invited me to an okcupid party this weekend that is apparently being thrown by (1 of?) your partner(s?) will you be there?

    Ya know, you know more about it than me. I’ll call her up and see what’s going on. I would put my chances of making it at 50/50.

  24. tom paine Says:

    I would dispute your assertion that the ban on male-male sexual contact in the swinger culture shows that it is geared primarily towards males. It’s a generalization that isn’t supported by the facts nor my anecdotal experience. The homophobia of the swinger world is well-documented, but this is likely more a function of the demographics of the members of that community than something based on gender politics, as well as fears of AIDS being introduced or spread in a sub-culture that turns a blind eye to the risks inherent in their activities.

  25. pepomint Says:


    First off, my apologies for the throwaway comment on swinging in this essay. I should have given it much more space. I discussed the status of women in nonmonogamy in detail in the follow-on post.

    The thing about homophobia is, it is usually mixed up with sexism in some way. In the case of swing parties that encourage women-women sex but ban men-men sex, we need to look at the motives of folks involved. Women getting it on with women is a staple of straight men’s fantasies, though by no means universal. Men getting it on with men is a staple of straight women’s fantasies as well. But, one is allowed at these parties while the other is not. Which means that men’s fantasies are taking priority over women’s at these parties, or perhaps men’s insecurities around men-men sex are taking priority over women’s fantasies.

    There are other things that indicate that some swing venues are more “for men” than “for women”. For example, the visual advertising is usually scantily clad women, with rarely a man to accompany them. Also, the atmosphere of sex parties tends towards certain aspects of male fantasy (what I call “access”) more than women’s fantasies, though of course there are exceptions to this sort of generalization. I cover both these points and others in the follow-on article.

    I think you are right that fear of HIV is probably playing a part here, but there are ways to deal with that fear (say, condoms) that do not require banning men-men sex, so I do not think that is the entire picture.

    All that said, swinging is not monolithic and some swing events do not have these issues. For example, a number of swing clubs in the San Francisco area welcome bisexual men. One group (notably, run by a woman) has been explicitly advertising for single bi men to balance out their party. I am considering checking it out for this reason, which is a first for me, though I have been to plenty of non-swinger sex parties.

  26. Fountain Pens and Handmade Paper » Blog Archive » links for 2008-02-24 Says:

    […] Polyamory and feminism (tags: polyamory sexuality feminism mlf) […]

  27. spriteless Says:

    I was thinking about how you brought attention to the feminism built into poly now… not that feminism isn’t a wonderful thing, but more attention needs to be brought to how not all males are straight vanilla ‘hicks’ with easily threatened manhood.

    I’d loudly yell ‘You need an article ’bout secure men nao plz!’ but I haven’t read all your articles, yet. None of them are named ‘Polyamory and Andrism ‘ or something that obviously a counterpart, though.

  28. pepomint Says:


    but more attention needs to be brought to how not all males are straight vanilla ‘hicks’ with easily threatened manhood.

    There is something that probably should be written on the men in polyamory, and how most of them have gotten past many things that most men feel entitled to: jealousy, possessiveness, ownership of one’s partner’s genitals, and so on.

    However, I tend to write on problems, and these guys are not problems, so it’s not so much a subject for me.

    I am planning on writing more stuff on how to be one of these men, sort of a “how to be a successful nonmonogamous man interested in women” piece.

  29. Legal recognition for multiple spouses « The PolyOldFart Says:

    […] categorically rejects multiple partners for women where modern polyamory celebrates it. There is some discussion if poly people should associate, even in passing, with the religious polygamists and a patriarchal […]

  30. How to be Poly-Friendly « freaksexual Says:

    […] Polyamory and Feminism […]

  31. Anbefalinger 3 « Magic Penny Says:

    […] Artikkel om kvinner og polyamori fra et amerikansk synspunkt. Sjekk også kommentarfeltet. […]

  32. Age and Polyamory Organizing « freaksexual Says:

    […] Polyamory and Feminism […]

  33. gwendolen1964 Says:

    I just thought you’d like to know, I’ve been defending this old article of yours on a polymatchmaker forum. I can’t grab a specific link on that site, but if you go to the General Forums section, the thread is Polyamory and Feminism, and it starts off with a link to your article.

    Hope you enjoy!

  34. eliane Says:

    Have you guys ever read Simone de Beauvoir? I am very much interested in Polyamory to have a clue whether it is or not something closer to what French existencialists did in the middle of XX century. Does Pollyamory seems new? Not for me. But that is a quite personal question.

  35. kinky7 Says:

    Reblogged this on kinky7.

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